In a packed tent on Sida's "Sweden in the world" square, I am eager to hear what representatives of Individual Humanitarian Aid, RFSU and Linnéa Claesson, public debater and activist, have to say about the increased threat to women around the world. The seminar will be about the role that civil society can play in a time when women's rights are threatened and the democratic space is diminishing. It undeniably feels relevant given both Donald Trump's reintroduction of the "gag rule" and the emergence of nationalist and right-wing extremist movements in recent years.
During the conversation, a disagreement arises as to whether you should really invite conversations with all parties and organizations. Is it right to start a dialogue with organizations that are xenophobic or groups that want to restrict women's rights? I continue to think about the issue that feels increasingly complex. Am I prepared to discuss with those who are struggling with everything I believe in and all the issues I am passionate about? The honest answer is that I actually do not know. I do not know if that is the way forward. But I know that we are many who are passionate about the same thing, that we are many who are prepared to fight for a better world. At a time when other forces are emerging and gaining ground, it is an important reminder.
The answer to the question posed by the seminar, about the role that civil society plays, is perhaps that civil society is more important than in a long time. Civil society needs to step forward and support activists at a time when democratic space is shrinking. Civil society needs to be there and support each other, even if opinions on issues sometimes differ. And then who are civil society, who needs to do this? It is all of us who believe in a democratic world and the equal value and rights of all people. It's me, and it's you.